I’ve covered the photo radar in Winnipeg since its very beginning almost 10 years ago.
The cameras weren’t switched on until 2002, but there was plenty of lead-up to the traffic cameras being installed. Plenty.
One thing that happened way back then that still sticks out for me is this. In pushing for provincial approval to get the cameras, former Mayor Glen Murray had this to say Oct. 15, 2001: "To get a ticket, you have to be a complete idiot. This is a tax on idiots."
Murray later regretted his choice of words, but then as now they still hold true: If you don’t speed or run a red light, you won’t get a ticket. It can’t be any more simple than that.
The other thing that sticks out is the ongoing argument whether photo radar is a cash grab or a tool to make streets safer.
In my mind it’s a no-brainer it’s about the money. It always has been. And if it gets people to slow down and results in fewer collisions, injuries and deaths, so much the better.
In my little neck of the woods, both my wife and I have gotten photo radar tickets. Once each. The hit on our pocketbook was a hard lesson. So we’ve slowed down. We’d rather spend on money on other things. I’ve got no problem with the cameras. If cameras watch me in the legislative building’s hallways, at businesses where I shop, eat and gas up, why not on the street?
Is it big brother? Yup. Is it a cash grab? Again, yup. Is it the best way to catch speeders? Yup. Until they start cloning police officers with hand-held radar guns in their hands, it’s the only alternative. Unless, of course, we all slow down.
I also don’t know how we can dedicate street cops to man speed traps, instead of using photo radar, when many of these same cops are being deployed to quell street gang violence. The cop tree doesn’t have that many leaves.
Recently, Winnipeg police and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) released the results of a public opinion poll on photo radar.
Simply, it found most people support it. [Read the full report in PDF format here.] TIRF is currently evaluating the effectiveness of photo enforcement in reducing crashes in a wider report to be released later in the year.
Staff Sgt. Mark Hodgson shared with me more details of the TIRF poll. Hodgson is the officer in charge of the Winnipeg police central traffic unit.
"We’re trying to be as transparent as possible," Hodgson said. "We want people to realize that this is truly independent."
Please look at the poll how it was conducted yourself.
And slow down. Please.